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Consuming Passions
Consuming Passions RTÉ One, Monday 8.30pm (Repeat)

Programme 8: Bee Happy

Wednesday, 22nd August 2007

It is arguably the quintessential sound of the summer. The buzzing that heralds the invasion of honeybees into our gardens on their endless search for nectar. Usually though that busy buzzy sound is accompanied by shrieks and wails as newspapers are folded in advance of combat after all those creatures smell fear, but have you ever wondered where these bees come from. The Bees Knees will tell how one of the oldest forms of food production is the consuming passion of men and women nationwide.

Often stared at in their futuristic outfits, the men and woman that we will meet, run their lives according to the lifecycle of their bees. They are mesmerized by them!

The life of a beekeeper is not just about producing a few jars of honey each year; it's a competition. Each July beekeepers from around the country swarm to the National Honey Show in Gormanston, Co Meath. Who has produced the most honey, the best honey and kept their bees disease free for another year? We will follow Keith as he enters his honey.

Keith Pierce, a fireman from Castleknock; "Nothing comes between me and my ladies". His over twenty hives, with 60,000 bees in each. "City bees tend to be livelier sparks than their country cousins". They are his best friends and he spends thousands of hours with them. "The car tends to veer towards the hives everyday. I tell myself I will only be 10 minutes, before I know it four hours have passed and the wife is on the phone!" Keith's wife detests bees and the harvest causes havoc in the house. He gets the honey everywhere and the bees tend to escape and terrify the family. Everything passes Keith by in favour of his bees, even during Italia 90 when the country stood still, Keith was with his bees; his own funeral is the only event that will stop his passion.

Maurice Leahy and Norman Butler have been mad about their bees for 10 years. Since Maurice's wife bought him his first hive with 10,000 bees, his passion has gotten a little out of control. According to Maurice, "bees are extraordinary creatures". Last summer they bought a flat-pack shed and built it in Maurice's garden. Hidden by trees and surrounded by their hives, this is where they get down to business. According to Norman, "we meet every Saturday morning at 11, to strategise and drink tea made on the potbelly stove". They are fanatical; it consumes all their time. They have named their honey Powers to Bees. It's hard work keeping bees alive, they are always teaching them something new. The passion enriches their lives, they admit, "It can get in the way, but in a beautiful way"

Amy Jennings is a 22-year old beginner beekeeper and has one small hive of bees in her back garden. Amy has just sat her last final in Horticultural Studies and hopes to go on to study Botany at Trinity. Having been into creatures and animals as a child, she is now really passionate and knowledgeable about nature. From her love of nature, Amy developed an interest in bees and beekeeping.

Amy's first experience of bees goes back to her childhood when her father, who has passed away, used to keep bees in the garden. However, Amy's real interest in beekeeping began last year when Maurice and Norman taught Amy and her mother, Angela, the basics of beekeeping. Amy really likes how the bees work as a community with workers, drones, and a queen. Interestingly, Amy also puts together homemade cosmetics from the beeswax. She also believes that bees respond aggressively or passively according to the state of mind and body language of their keepers.

The audience will experience the huge joy and appeal in the discovery of bees; they will see how humbled, educated and inspired the beekeepers are by their consuming passion.


Additional website information

The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association
Michael G Gleeson
Co Meath
Tel No 046-9541433 or 086-6879584

Keith Pierce
Keith Pierce
Amy Jennings
Amy Jennings
Norman Butler & Maurice Leahy
Norman Butler & Maurice Leahy